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Port Washington hires consulting firm to develop renewable energy plan

The Port Washington Public Library, shown on Oct.

The Port Washington Public Library, shown on Oct. 8, 2015, is being considered for an effort to create a microgrid in the community of Port Washington. Credit: Jeremy Bales

Port Washington is poised to go off the old grid.

The North Shore peninsula community is among 83 in the state to consider adding a microgrid, a stand-alone energy network that harnesses power from several facilities and can operate separately from the main utility grid.

The state announced in July that the Town of North Hempstead and 82 other communities had won a $100,000 state grant to conduct a feasibility study for building a microgrid, which is more widespread in hospitals and college campuses. The town board last week hired Manhattan-based Hitachi Consulting Corp., which has built grids throughout North America, to develop the plans for a community-based microgrid.

The microgrid, according to early plans, could rely on energy resources that would be installed in several facilities, including the Landmark on Main Street, an apartment complex and theater; the public library; and the town's animal shelter.

"When the local utility grid goes down, this local network can separate itself from the grid and operate independently," said Brian Levite, a senior manager for Hitachi Social Innovation Business.

The facilities could connect renewable power and other energy technology sources, such as on-site battery storage, to power the grid, which doesn't have to be connected physically by wires.

In New York, 10 microgrids are operating. Several are at colleges, including at Stony Brook University, Cornell University in Ithaca and New York University. Two are residential or municipal-based, including in the Town of Denning upstate and Co-Op City in the Bronx. On Long Island, microgrids are being developed in Seaford and Yaphank.

Proponents of microgrids say they favor them because they can support, or work in place of, traditional power grids because the power can be generated locally and on site. The power grids in use draw energy from a single plant that can be far from the community and prone to outages.

"The Port Washington area has had some ongoing power supply issues," said Erin Reilley, the town's chief sustainability officer. "The community there has a lot of problems, buffeted by winds on either side of the peninsula, and with trees going down."

The community was angered last year as PSEG Long Island installed more than 200 tall utility poles from Port Washington to Great Neck, over the objections of residents and elected officials. Town officials conceded the cost of burying the lines would be high for ratepayers.

Dina De Giorgio, a councilwoman who lives in Port Washington, said "if we're self-sustaining and generating our own power, it obviates the need for more" tall utility poles.

A challenge for connecting facilities in Port Washington, according to the proposal from Hitachi, is linking structures that are separated by streets.

The microgrid could be a critical resource for the community during power outages. But Reilley said "that's the minimum goal," and that it could serve as a "cleaner or less expensive power resource available whenever."

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